Preston North End boss anxious over injuries to defenders Tom Clarke and Paul Huntington
Preston boss Alex Neil will be casting an anxious eye over his North End defence over the coming days just as he is beginning to get numbers back in the attack.
In the weekend’s 1-1 draw with Swansea, Tom Clarke and Paul Huntington were both substituted while Josh Earl was sent off.
Clarke came off with a calf injury in the second half and the skipper’s fitness will be of some concern ahead of the trip to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.
Huntington did not appear for the second half, with Neil putting that partly down to a tactical issue and partly due to a slight injury.
Of the pair, he seems to be less of a concern.
Neil said: “Tom has played a lot of the games recently and it was disappointing that he had to come off. We had rested him for the last game against Doncaster to make sure that we could get the maximum out of him for this one.
“He pulled up with a calf and that’s disappointing.
“I’m not sure how bad Hunts is but I think he should be okay.
“We are hoping Ben Davies might get back to training this week which would certainly help us.”
Clarke has been Preston’s regular right-back since the end of October.
A badly broken nose, and complications linked to it, has seen him miss a couple of games but a protective mask has got him through most of the action.
Darnell Fisher is a natural replacement at right-back but his form has dipped this term.
With Huntington there was an indication from Neil that Saturday’s substitution leaned more on the tactical side of things.
Andrew Hughes moved to centre-half from left-back in place of Huntington, with Earl coming off the bench to fill the vacancy left by Hughes.
“It was a bit of both with Hunts,” said Neil.
“He had a tight groin but to be honest we had been talking in the first half about the lack of balance we had.
“We had a right-footer on the left side and that made it difficult to play out
“What we needed was a left-footed player who could step out and split lines for us by using the ball well.
“I thought that as soon as we did that in the second half it made us a bit better.
“We had a better balance in terms of putting quality balls forward rather than trying to force it.”
Getting Davies back to full fitness would bring balance, with him being left-footed.
He suffered a hamstring strain in the first half of the Boxing Day defeat to Hull.
Earl’s red card for two bookings on Saturday will see him miss the QPR game with a one-game ban.